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Taranaki Health Considers Closing Base Hospital

The finances of at least one District Health Board are in such bad shape it has considered closing its base hospital, National's Associate Health spokesperson Dr Paul Hutchison said today.

Taranaki's District Health Board listed closing its base hospital among the options to deal with a $10 million deficit due to it being underfunded in the 2001-02 year.

When Dr Hutchison asked the Minister in Parliament today if she accepted this radical option was forced by her underfunding, her Associate Health spokesperson Tariana Turia answered with a sweeping generalisation that there would be no health cuts.

"Has she not been reading and listening to boards throughout the country complaining about funding cuts and warning of inevitable service cuts due to lack of funding since the budget?

"It is strange the Government claims there won't be service cuts when it has asked boards to provide lists of 'efficiency' options - that is service cuts to meet budget. "Taranaki's board was meeting today to consider how it can operate with a $10 million deficit. One option so it could break even was to close its base hospital and drop medical, surgical and maternity services.

"Another option was 'remodelling patient flows'. It is unclear what this means but it could be cutting elective surgery and reworking waiting lists - making them longer.

"Whatever option the board takes it leaves the people of Taranaki short-changed.

"The Government must face up to underfunding the health service. It campaigned on raising taxes for better health and education services but has not delivered," Dr Hutchison said.

Ends


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